When I think about holidays I think about tradition. I think about the deep and intimate moments, the light and funny quirks. We repeat these traditions each year because we are here.
It’s been a challenging couple of months where I’ve been thrown into a tumult of change. I have found myself able to best move forward with care. Self-care. Routines. Repetition.
There is sense of strength in the tiniest actions: to wake up, to write, to exercise, to sleep. To show yourself that even when mind and spirit might be caught up in an emotional flux, you are still here.
You are still here. Physically, you are still here. That is what the beautiful steady pulse of routine reminds us. That is where moments of forgiveness and fortitude in the self form; you will survive. You are still here.
In noticing these tiny actions we help to ground ourselves away from the anxiety of change. We ground ourselves in a sense of self, in a history and context that is only ours, in holiday traditions.
I find myself visiting my mother for a Saturday to make candies. I am reminded of the array of childhood Christmas’ where we spent time making these same candies. Peanut butter and sugar rolled together, dipped in a molten pool of thick chocolate. There was nothing more fun for me.
Rolling grape leaves. Finally, a woman, invited to join the Aunts at the table. Finally able to taste and appreciate the cumin and the lamb, the spices and the Lebanese in me.
Then, on Christmas Eve, always Oprakta, a giving of thanks and kisses to dozens of Polish relatives.
Christmas morning. Breakfast at dads, perogies and sausage. Next mom’s for presents then onto grandma’s house. No variations. No change. Steady the course again please.
Because I am here. My family is here. We are still here. The routine and the special traditions are actions that dig open channels, space for gratitude and grace, and when all are gone it is a special way to trigger us into the years of love and family when we are still here.
I had a dream that there was a heat wave. Suddenly, what felt as real as yesterday, I saw myself turning off all the nobs for heat in the house. I opened the patio door and let the warmth in.
It was hot, summer hot, and I could feel it entering the house from our wide patio doors. It was the cleansing of light I felt, a freshing feeling in that moment, doors open, air inside, seeing everything in front of me.
Change is afoot. It comes through in sweeping winds the kind that bring force and might, strength and fear all at once. As it slows down and life settles one can see the terrain differently. I am now, I think, approaching this change with the door opened, not forced, accepting and wanting to see what is well-lit on the terrain, the truths of what was and what is.
October 11th, 2015 in
Each year the arrival of a birthday coming meant time to measure up.
I used to measure myself up against a chalkboard wall of goals: Do I have money? A career I love? Is my book going to be published yet? I imagine others would ask too: Married with kids? House I own? Check, check, or writing hard criticisms down against the pinned-up self.
But now I’ve realized standing against that wall of goals is not how I want to measure growth. My growth happens in tiny, smaller ways, in the day to day of life that is harder to see and pick out on the pointed end of a stick.
Really for the past two years instead of hounding these questions, I've been working on developing a daily creative process. Each morning writing in a journal. Morning Pages. Each morning publishing on the blog. Michipreneur. Each morning spending an hour or a half hour, or whatever I can, on my creative writing. It is a breather, a way to mediate before starting the day.
No I have not done it every day this past year. We all don’t exercise, sleep right, and care for ourselves perfectly every day. But I've worked on it and most days I have followed it. And most days I am happier. I am writing all the time. I have moments in a flash where an entire story or essay will flow out, and other days of quiet reflection, peace and understanding of my world and what I can create with it.
And the results? What would be checked off on that big black board of life’s goals?
Well there are some. I am more focused and ready to tackle a day. I come to work without stress. I have had more work published this year. I've even had an idea for a book and wrote the first draft. It’s a byproduct of each and every day creating, growing, and taking care of myself. I may have even experienced a bit of creative momentum. Almost every month for the first half of the year a story or creative piece was accepted for publication.
Sure every year may or may not be like that. But it doesn't matter. And it doesn't matter if you miss a day or two. Just get back to it the next day. Your creative process will keep you focused, keep the mind open and the black board slate clean and ready for creating instead of measuring.
I just finished reading Liz Gilbert’s latest book Big Magic. A big THANK YOU for writing it.
At twenty six I’ve written (published some) short stories and am currently trudging through my first novel. In Big Magic, Liz shares an important concept for writers to realize: the space we creators must make for paradoxes. I think this is going to help me get through my first try at first novel, so I thought I'd share below some of the paradoxes she covers.
Needing space to love each sentence / to remove or “kill your darlings”. Liz elegantly points out how she treats each sentence as if it is the most important one, the most elegant version of that sentence she can create. But then you might have to kill it. That’s okay. Accept this paradox. Take away what you must to make the story great.
To carry your inspiration with your fear. Much of the book explains how creators can deal with their inspiration and also deal with their fear. Liz believes you have to make room for both, but you can never let fear take the wheel. Fear can be good, but it can’t drive your creative choices or you’ll never get far into your creating. It can be hard to accept and carry both, but we must.
Write for yourself, but edit for others. When we are creating it is for ourselves. We read it to ourselves in our head. We tell the story to ourselves. The topics or themes are often obessions we love and care about. But the story must be interrupted by others. This is a paradox in itself and one that must be addressed often in the editing phase. Did that make sense to you? Great. Does it work outside of your head? Will the reader get it? If not it's got to be fixed.
Knowing the truth as creator / interpretation of truth as audience. A similar paradox but taking this a step further, though we might edit as best we can to send out our message to the world, we’re not in charge of it anymore when it’s released. We have no idea how the audience will interpret the story. That’s okay. We’ve done our best. It’s up to the reader now to digest and apply their own truths and meanings to the tale.
While editing my first book of work these paradoxes are helping me to realize that though we can do our best we can never know the outcome. We can only strive to do our best.
Each morning I wake up and try to squeez in a half hour or hour of editing. I battle a flurry of emotions, feeling wonderful and excited one morning or angry and disappointed the next. I am busy trudging through the sloppiness to get to the show, to display full picture of what I’m producing, and each day carries a new emotion with it. It's easy to love and to hate the process.
But, much of the main message from this book, we can choose how we embrace the process. Choose to love it. Love the work, do it or find another way to create and enjoy your life.
I’m determined to finish this first larger piece of work and just naive enough to believe it will all turn out the way it should.